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Dan Rather is at it Again

Stop me if you're heard this one....

A has-been anchorman, trying to reclaim past [false] glory tries to destroy a person or an institution by using accusations from a dubious source back-up by documents of dubious credibility. A big blogosphere welcome back to Dan Rather.

This time his target is Boeing but his reportage skills are about the same. Even without benefit of seeing the report (it airs tonight) there are already problems with it. The Seattle Times has a piece about tonight's broadcast, emphasis mine:

Fired engineer calls 787's plastic fuselage unsafe

A former senior aerospace engineer at Boeing's Phantom Works research unit, fired last year under disputed circumstances, is going public with concerns that the new 787 Dreamliner is unsafe.

Forty-six-year veteran Vince Weldon contends that in a crash landing that would be survivable in a metal airplane, the new jet's innovative composite plastic materials will shatter too easily and burn with toxic fumes. He backs up his views with e-mails from engineering colleagues at Boeing and claims the company isn't doing enough to test the plane's crashworthiness. ...

Rather's show presents a letter Weldon wrote to the FAA in July detailing his view, as well as two e-mails to Weldon dated August 2005 and February 2006, expressing similar safety concerns, from unidentified senior Boeing engineers who are still at the company. ...

It looks as though the centerpiece of Rather's story is a letter that this guy wrote to the FAA. The fact this guy has made the charge before hardly qualifies of proof the charge is true. - Well not to anyone except Dan Rather.

What about the 2 emails from other engineers, you ask... That actually worries me quite a bit. That he ONLY has two. If he's an engineer on a project as advanced and complex as the 787 he should have a few hundred questions from engineers concerning safety.

It but seem paradoxical at first, but it is the UNASKED questions that bite you in engineering. It was the UNASKED questions at NASA that caused the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. It was the UNASKED questions that caused the Army Corps of Engineers to flood New Orleans. (ok technically, they asked the questions, answered the questions, ignored their own answers and built the flawed floodwalls anyway, but I digress.)

Obviously I am interested in the content of the letters, perhaps they are important, but the mere fact they exist proves zero. And certainly Dan Rather has the names of the engineers and they have obviously refused to talk so it seems even less credible.

So why was this guy fired?

Weldon was fired in July 2006. He alleged in a whistle-blower complaint with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that the firing was "retaliation for raising concerns throughout the last two years of his employment about the crashworthiness of the 787."

But according to a summary of OSHA's findings, Boeing told investigators Weldon was fired for threatening a supervisor, specifically for stating he wanted to hang the African-American executive "on a meat hook" and that he "wouldn't mind" seeing a noose around the executive's neck.

Weldon denied to OSHA investigators that he had referred to a noose and said the "meat hook" reference had not been a threat. ...

Now that's a credible source if I ever heard one.

Rather said his show doesn't determine whether Boeing or Weldon is right. [Of course not, Rather is just a mud-slinger] But referring to the e-mails from Weldon's peers, he said, "There are others who are still within the company who are concerned ... that Boeing could be destroyed by taking the 787 to market too soon and brushing aside these safety concerns too cavalierly."

Good! I hope every engineer in the place thinks about that plane crashing every day of his professional life. That's his job!

In the end, this won't matter a bit. The people who buy airplanes of this size won't be swayed by this nonsense. It's just another sad chapter in slow motion train wreck that is Dan Rather's final years on television. All he has is a wild claim from a guy with serious credibility issues. But he ran the story anyway. Same Dan, different day.


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Comments (36)

I'm a moron who can't read.... (Below threshold)

I'm a moron who can't read.

Thank you Mark Cuban! As i... (Below threshold)
kbiel:

Thank you Mark Cuban! As if we weren't entertained enough by your asshattery on the basketball court.

Well at least we now know w... (Below threshold)
Bob Finer:

Well at least we now know what the Ron Paul supporters will be watching tonight. ; -)

I don't know about anyone e... (Below threshold)

I don't know about anyone else, but I find the entire concept of 'crash-worthiness' a novel (and slightly comical) idea. Airplanes fly at high speeds and high altitudes. Any airplane you could design with any reasonable degree of crash-worthiness probably would not be able to make it off the runway.

I'm sure the engineers are focused on more important issues...like air-worthiness.

Just the mention of Dan Rat... (Below threshold)
Jer:

Just the mention of Dan Rather and documents in the same sentence gives me cause to be suspicious.

Actually, crashworthiness i... (Below threshold)

Actually, crashworthiness is pretty important. You see, while altitude and speed make you safe, flying low and slow puts you in danger. Most crashes do not occur from altitude (though those tend to be the most spectacular, and thus most widely-covered), but on takeoff or even moreso on landing. Having a plane designed to be safe when skidding off the runway, or pancaking on landing, means potentially hundreds of lives not lost. It's worth the attention.

But that does not mean that there is any value to the random lashings of the MSM, which don't go anywhere towards finding or fixing any problems which might exist, but instead contribute to a culture of litigiousness and unfounded fears.

Jeff Medcalf is entirely co... (Below threshold)

Jeff Medcalf is entirely correct - which is not to say, however, that Rather's report is.

That the fellow was fired for threatening an executive with violence and subsequently filed a "whistle-blower" lawsuit puts him in the category of "disgruntled former employee." That doesn't make him wrong, of course, but it does mean he has some ax to grind which might affect his perspective, or even his veracity.

Only two emails from fellow engineers which tend to confirm his concerns? And how many years has this plane been under development? There have undoubtedly been hundreds of engineers and tens of thousands of emails about the design, and TWO make the report - anonymously, at that.

Sorry, Dan, but if you have some guy going off on a tangent and flooding your inbox with his crackpot theories which have nothing to do with your work, you might attempt to get him off your back with a sympathetic reply.

Of course, ol' Danny thinks it just fine for "documents" to be handed off anonymously between couriers at a county fair, to be photocopies, etc., with no need to check the sources OR the accuracy of the documents. Maybe that's why he no longer anchors a nightly news show, but has a weekly show on a cable network instead?

Looks like DAN BLATHER is a... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

Looks like DAN BLATHER is at it again trying to relive his past of lies,fruad and descite

Boeing must have made itsel... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

Boeing must have made itself a target because it showed up Airbus in a huge way.

"All landings are controlle... (Below threshold)

"All landings are controlled crashes."

- Ground School

Having spent some time work... (Below threshold)

Having spent some time working in the factories of Boeing, I think I can say that Boeing endeavors to make as safe an airplane as possible. Three things drive that:

1. Lawsuits.
2. Competition
3. Insurance Rates

If that airplane is as unsafe as this guy says, it would ultimately be a disaster for the company. No one wants to sell an unsafe airframe and no one wants to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy an unsafe airplane.

Accidents will happen. Nothing is perfect, but neither Airbus or Boeing have anything to gain by selling an inherently unsafe product. No one will buy it!

I've seen guys fired for trying to cover up mistakes. On the other hand, I know of a guy that made a mistake that cost the company tens of thousands to fix. He reported his error, and he kept his job.

I'm gonna say the plane has most likely passed some serious engineering muster, by Boeing engineers and by consultant engineers hired by the customers to protect the airline's investment.

The last thing that enters into this equation is liability insurance rates. If the plane is like this guy says, the insurance rates to put it in the air with passengers would most likely be prohibitive.

I think we have more bark than bite here.

VW

Hooson:Boeing ... (Below threshold)
marc:

Hooson:

Boeing contracted work to an unsafe nonunion machine shop here in Portland that has since closed that killed my best friend, Charles, in a horrible lathe accident.

And I bet if it were a UNION shop your outrage would be tempered or nonexistent. 'cause we all know you HATE non-union shops.

And BTW... "mr. life experiance," save the personal anecdotes and comment on the story.

As far as the dan man goes, I wouldn't trust a word spoken or written from the man if he claimed his hair was on fire and I were toasting marshmallows in the flame from it.

TO CONTINUE:I wond... (Below threshold)
marc:

TO CONTINUE:

I wonder if dan the man ever though for one hot second to contact the makers of the Airbus 380?

Engineers that work in the A/C industry are a close-knit one despite the competitive nature between their respective companies they work for.

Ya see the Airbus 380's airframe is constructed of Carbon-fiber reinforced plastic, 25% of it by weight in fact.

Someone who had the slightest interest in verifying what allegedly went on at Boeing could possibly find something similar at Airbus S.A.S.

But as we all know dan the man has little interest above spewing out unsubstantiated tripe.

An Addendum:I just... (Below threshold)
marc:

An Addendum:

I just read the S-Post article.

Wonder if dan the man will note this "whistleblower," while an engineer h,is specialty isn't in materials (i.e. "composite plastic materials") as applied to A/C construction?

I bet not.

And it goes without sayin' no "meat hooks" will be harmed in production of his broadcast either.

Funny, but the auto racing ... (Below threshold)
CharlieDontSurf:

Funny, but the auto racing world gave up on aluminum tubs years ago and the cars are safer than ever. I wonder if Dan did any homework at all?...ooops, I forgot, that's what Mary Mapes was for.

CharlieDontSurf - an excell... (Below threshold)
marc:

CharlieDontSurf - an excellent point. Carbon fiber provides much higher strength than steel or aluminum at a much lower weight.

Composites do present a muc... (Below threshold)
epador:

Composites do present a much higher problem with HAZMAT both for particles of unburned material and the fumes from burned material. However, the plastics inside most modern commercial airliners also have severe toxic fumes released when burned. I don't see Dan getting in a lather over that.

Sounds like the messenger is tainted, but there may be some valid points to consider. Other questions about how to monitor/ maintenance, and the cost of maintenance over aluminum might be worthy considerations of debate inside of Boeing.

This engineer is definitely... (Below threshold)

This engineer is definitely a disgrunted whistle-blower. I work in aerospace production and the amount of pre-testing that the 787 will have to undergo before they flight test a plane is incredible. After that they still have to pass a second series of certification tests before the FAA will approve the plane for service. And that is for every component that hasn't been used before. Trust me, Boeing is very aware of all the issues.

Paul,Not to throw ... (Below threshold)
PETN Sandwich:

Paul,

Not to throw a wet blanket on the much deserved Rather bashing, but

"It was the UNASKED questions that caused the Army Corps of Engineers to flood New Orleans. (ok technically, they asked the questions, answered the questions, ignored their own answers and built the flawed floodwalls anyway, but I digress.)"

The Corps of Engineers did not flood New Orleans, an Act of God did (ok technically, Hurricane Katrina did) unless you care to show how the floodwalls somehow amplified the flood?

It would greatly enhance the credibility of your claim if you were to provide calcs endorsed with your PE.

In advance, Thanks!

>The Corps of Engineers did... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>The Corps of Engineers did not flood New Orleans, an Act of God did (ok technically, Hurricane Katrina did) unless you care to show how the floodwalls somehow amplified the flood?

Where the hell have you been?

Go read our Katrina archives and get back to me. The Floodwalls did not AMPLIFY the Flood... They CAUSED the flood.

Please, go read. No pun intended but you're all wet. (OK pun intended)

>It would greatly enhance t... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>It would greatly enhance the credibility of your claim if you were to provide calcs endorsed with your PE.

heh- How about the fact The Corps themselves say they flooded New Orleans.

Good enough for you?

I'll hold my breath for the apology.

Seat everyone backwards. M... (Below threshold)
kim:

Seat everyone backwards. Maybe not the pilot.
============================================

PETNWalk away, man. ... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

PETN
Walk away, man. Just trust me on this. This is not the forum, and Paul is not the one you want to debate on this without reading his past extensive research on this subject. You should search the Wizbang archives if you want to understand Paul's stance on Katrina. This is well-ploughed ground for Wizbang.

Paul
You have been unusually calm in your measured responses to PETN. Good for you. Probably best to ignore PETN's rantings (or satire? who can tell?).

PETN you where done when yo... (Below threshold)
Paul:

PETN you where done when you said this:

Never mind what the Corps says - while they say they are at fault, what proof do they bring?

Yes, after 9 months of living in denial while every credible researcher said they flooded the town, they finally admit to killing 1000 people and destroying an entire city --- and you want them to "prove" it????

Sure, people always admit to things like that they didn't do.

You DEFINE troll.

================

BTW asshole to answer your question, please read the link again where it says:

"This is the first time that the Corps has had to stand up and say, `We've had a catastrophic failure,'" Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, the Corps chief, said as the agency issued a 6,000-page-plus report on the disaster on Day 1 of the new hurricane season.

They gave you 6,000 pages of proof asshole.

Like I said, you define troll.

Buh bye.

>You have been unusually ca... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>You have been unusually calm in your measured responses to PETN.

Nope nope nope..... You missed the past subtlety.

I am ALWAYS calm and polite on my FIRST reply. I know the media did a horrible job reporting it and I don't blame people for their ignorance....

But when I lead them to the answer, hand feed it to them, invite them to read the archives and they STILL say shit like he did... dude, it's asshole time.

BUT I no longer argue the point. Once they say dumbshit like that now, I just ban them. He doesn't want knowledge, he wants to be an asshole.

-- And it's a free country, he as the right to be an asshole. Somewhere else.

Just so I don't get confuse... (Below threshold)
kim:

Just so I don't get confused, was this deliberate act by the Corps one of commission or omission?
========================================

ok ok ok maybe not ALWAYS..... (Below threshold)
Paul:

ok ok ok maybe not ALWAYS... so sue me. lol

------------

Actually Nes, what you probably don't know because I've only hinted at it (I don't think I've really said much about it, maybe I have) For a loooong time various people attached the the Corps where in the comments section trying to "discredit" my body of work. Many of the trolls you've seen where from the Corps.

(Yeah, I wasn't too polite to them ;-)

Kevin and I have been watching them... Kev found one about 3 weeks ago who stuck his head up.

This guy was just wandering through... I can now "spot" the Corps people pretty quick. They simultaneously know too much AND too little.

>Just so I don't get confus... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>Just so I don't get confused, was this deliberate act by the Corps one of commission or omission?

I never said it was by design... it was gross criminal negligence.

If I back out of my driveway without looking and roll you over on the sidewalk, I still killed you.

How long have you been here?

OK, by omission. I thought... (Below threshold)
kim:

OK, by omission. I thought so. I've tried to ignore the disaster at NoLa, considering it inevitable given the human hubris necessary to have prevented the Mississippi from taking its course through the delta west of where it does now. So, I've missed your epic, and I'm sorry I haven't had the energy to delve.

So what was the source of high dry air that weakened and diverted Katrina at the last moment? As documented on the Irishki Trojan's blog?
===================================

>So what was the source of ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>So what was the source of high dry air that weakened and diverted Katrina at the last moment?

That's above my pay grade. ;-)

I thought dan rather retire... (Below threshold)
moseby:

I thought dan rather retired. Shouldn't he be at the dog track frottaging homeless bag ladies?

Heh, heh. It was Rove via ... (Below threshold)
kim:

Heh, heh. It was Rove via Texas.
================================

Heard on the radio today:<b... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

Heard on the radio today:
Dan Rather sues CBS for $70 mil for the whole fake documents fiasco/firing.

Les, that's the best news I... (Below threshold)
kim:

Les, that's the best news I've heard all week. The Thornburgh whitewash will come back to haunt the disinformationists at CBS.
===============================

Quick!! Someone throw on t... (Below threshold)
moseby:

Quick!! Someone throw on the lights and squash dan rather before he scurries under the fridge!!

Class act there Paul.... (Below threshold)
PETN Sandwich:

Class act there Paul.




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